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ON THE DISCREPANCIES BETWEEN MATTHEW, MARK, AND
LUKE, CONCERNING THE CURE OF THE BLIND NEAR
Matth. xx. 29–34. Mark. x. 46–52. Luke xviii. 35–43
The part of our exercise* upon which I have written, is that in which is contained the accounts of the cure of blindness which our Lord performed in the vicinity of Jericho. These accounts are given by three of the evangelists. They are so similar, that we must believe that they relate to the same event; yet it is their discrepancies only upon which I shall remark.
I say that we must believe that these accounts relate to the same event; because they have many circumstances in common which it would be difficult to suppose accompanied different events. The particulars in which all three of the historians agree are the following:
1. Christ was in the neighbourhood of Jericho.
2. The person or persons who were blind sat by the way side. Mark and Luke, who speak only of one, both mention that he was a beggar.
3. The exclamation of the persons mentioned by the different evangelists, is almost exactly the same : Have mercy on us, (or, on me, Jesus, thou son of David.'
4. They were rebuked by the multitude.
* See note on Dissertation I. p. 160.
5. They notwithstanding continued their cries more eare nestly.
6. Jesus stopped, and called to them.
7. The question which he asks them, and the answer which they make, are precisely the same, except as to a slight difference of phraseology.
8. They follow him after being cured.
These, separately considered, are not important particulars; but it would be exceedingly remarkable, if they should have repeatedly occurred in the same succession ; and should have been selected by three distinct writers to designate different events. But the conclusive arguments against such a supposition are, the connexion with the other parts of the his. tory in which the narration occurs, which is the same in each of the evangelists; and the fact that but one account is given by each; whereas, had the events been different, we might expect to find them distinctly mentioned by at least one of the evangelists.
But these things notwithstanding, it has been supposed, because of the differences which exist, that there were three separate miracles performed near Jericho, one of which only is mentioned by each of the sacred historians. This, according to Calvin, was the opinion of Osiander, who was at the head of those curious harmonists* who, believing each of the evangelists to have written in chronological order, suppose that the same events took place twice or thrice during the ministry of Christ.t Calvin explains and explodes this opinion in the following manner. « Osiander seemed to himself to be
ingenious in making four blind men out of one. she should have said two.] But nothing is more frivolous than this explana
* Marsh's Michaelis, vol. iii. p. i. ch. 2. sec. 6.
† In this supposition Osiander was partly preceded by Austin. See Middleton's Reflections on the Variations in the four Evangel ists. Works, vol. ii. p. 48. 4to.
tion. Because he percieved that the evangelists differed in some words, he pretended that one blind man was restored to his sight as Christ entered the city, and that a second, and two others, were cured as he departed thence. But all the circumstances so agree, that no man in his senses would believe that they related to different events. Truly, (not to mention other things, after the companions of Christ had endeavoured to silence the first, and contrary to their expectation, had seen him cured, they shortly after tried the same thing upon three others. But it is unnecessary to enumerate the particulars, from which it may readily be perceived that one and the same thing is related"*
If then these narratives relate to the same fact, we must endeavour to account for the discrepancies between them. Of these there are two; one with respect to the place where the cure was performed, the other concerning the number of those who were cured. These I will consider in their order.
1. Matthew and Mark agree in stating this cure to have been performed after Jesus and his disciples had left Jericho, or as they departed from it. Luke says, that it was when they were drawing near to it. He uses the word syyi Gerv, which Grotiust asserts, means not only to approach, but to be near; and he thus would reconcile the writers, by supposing Luke not to have expressed any thing but simply proximity, without specifying whether of approach or distance. But Campbellt gives it at his belief, that when syy. Con is followed by the preposition eis, as it is in the present instance, it always means to approach. This opinion, and the fact that mention is made by Luke immediately after the narrative of this cure, of Christ's entrance, and passage through Jericho, go far to the discredit of the explanation given by Grotius, which has been adopted by Le Clerc, and Whitby, and is mentioned without disapprobation by Clarke, and Macknight.
** Calvini Comment. in Harm.
Comment. in Matth.
* See his note on Luke xviii. 35.
The following solution is given by Le Clerc. “ It may be,” says he, “ that while Christ was going to Jerusalem, he stopped some time near Jericho, and often went in and out of the city ; there being no reason why he should hasten, as the passover was yet distant. This passage then may be thus understood : Christ, when he first went out of Jericho, and was yet near to the city, which circumstance (viz. that of his proximity] Luke mentions, cured this blind man; and then returned to the city, by another gate, as it would seem, and Went to visit Zaccheus."*
“ My conjecture," says Calvin," is this; that as Christ approached the city the blind man cried out to him; but when , on account of the noise, he was not heard, he sat down on the road which led out of the city; and then at last was called by Jesus. Luke therefore taking up the story at its beginning, does not carry on the narration connectedly, but makes a transition over Christ's stay in the city. The other two wri. ters relate the events of that time only which was immediately connected with the miracle.”+
In Bowyer's Conjectures, a solution is given by Markland, which is adopted by Wakefield in his translation of the New Testament, who renders Luke xviii. 35. as follows: “ Now, while he was at Jericho, nigh unto Jerusalem” &c. This sup poses an ellipsis in the original after syyiben autov, which is to be supplied by the words εις Ιεροσολυμα. This supposition is thus defended by Wakefield in his note on the passage:
we must remember that Jesus is making the best of his way to Jerusalem ; and that Jerusalem, the great theatre of the subsequent transactions, was constantly in the mind of the historian. This therefore is the place to which Jesus was gradually approaching, and had now almost reached, as Mr.
* Comment. in Luc.
† Comment. in Harm.
Markland judiciously observes.” But, says Campbell, speaking of this mode of understanding the passage, “ A liberty sa unbounded is not more agreeable to the Greek idiom than to the English. It is alike repugnant to the idiom of every tongue, to authorize an interpreter to make a writer say what he pleases. Such licenses are subversive of all grammar and syntax."*
Macknight mentions three methods of explaining this difficulty. The first is the same essentially with that of Le Clerc, which has been given, and depends upon the admission of that meaning of syyICE IV EIS which has been considered. The second is, that Jesus entered Jericho at noon, at which time the blind man of whom Luke speaks cried to him for a cure; but without obtaining any answer.
That Jesus came back in the evening, when this blind man, and another who had joined himself with him, again besought him to heal them, which he did. To the objection, that no mention is made of any time elapsing between the request of the blind and the cure, he answers, that such kind of connexion is common in scripture. Whether we are to suppose however that such kind of connexion exists in this place, is to be determined by its apparent probability.
The third supposition of Macknight is, that there were two Jerichos, the one being the ruins of the ancient Jericho, the other a new city which was near the site of the old one; that the beggars were sitting on the road between the two towns, and that Jesus might be said to have performed their cure either as he was leaving one, or as he was entering the other, according to the pleasure of the historian. That there were two Jerichos we may allow; whether they were near to cach other, we do not know. If they were so near as Macknight supposes, it is not probable that, at the time of their Campbell's note on the passage.